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Congress to amend ARMM Act anew — GMA

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Congress may move to amend yet again the organic act seeking to expand the coverage of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), President Arroyo said yesterday.

She said this was why it was likely the Commission on Elections (Comelec) may decide to postpone anew the plebiscite in the ARMM as called for in Republic Act 2219.

Under RA 2219, the plebiscite is to be held anywhere from 60 to 90 days after the law’s enactment. The President did not sign the organic act but allowed it to lapse into law last March 28.

"As it is now, the plebiscite should be held sometime in the end of June if we’re to follow the normal course of the law. But between now and June, there will be sessions again. So it’s possible there will be amendments again," she said.

In her pre-departure press conference at the Edwin Andrews Airbase in Zamboanga City, Mrs. Arroyo explained the Comelec has the power to postpone elections for various reasons, among them lack of funds or logistics.

She said it was not her decision to again postpone the ARMM plebiscite which was originally scheduled to be held simultaneously with the May 14 national and local elections.

"I did not postpone it because it has not been set. It’s the law that set the date of the plebiscite or rather the deadline. And what I did was not sign the bill into law and allow it to lapse into law," she said.

The President admitted she is not completely in agreement with the Congress-enacted new organic act for the ARMM which seeks the region’s coverage from the present four provinces – Maguindanao, Lanao del Sur, Tawi-Tawi and Sulu.

Without citing any specific provisions of RA 2219 that she did not agree with, Mrs. Arroyo said her administration may ask for further review of the law for possible amendments.

Under the new law, the proposed expansion of ARMM coverage will be subjected to a plebiscite on May 14 in the 14 provinces likely to be included in ARMM, as provided for in a peace agreement between the government and the Moro National Liberation Front.

"I want to be comfortable with the whole bill as it is. But on the other hand, the discomfort was not enough to veto it," she said.

Mrs. Arroyo said there were other bills she let lapse into law, such as one spelling the criteria for a town to be transformed into a city. – Marichu Villanueva

AUTONOMOUS REGION

COMELEC

EDWIN ANDREWS AIRBASE

LAW

MARICHU VILLANUEVA

MORO NATIONAL LIBERATION FRONT

MRS. ARROYO

MUSLIM MINDANAO

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